Baritone’s recital missing a key element

Times Staff Writer

The fascination of hearing emerging young artists in an elegant recital setting continues in this fifth season of concerts on the Jose Iturbi Gold Medal series at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. Monday night, baritone Randall Scarlata appeared in a song recital encompassing music by Schubert, Brahms, Grieg, Poulenc and Sibelius, among others.

Scarlata, 32, assisted handsomely by pianist Cameron Stowe, gave an engaging performance, showing intelligence, strong programming and a felicitous knowledge of his materials. All he lacks is the vocal equipment to bring to life all the elements in those materials.

Winner of several prestigious national and international vocal competitions, the American (New York-born) baritone obviously has insights into the songs he sings; he understands styles; he usually delivers words sensitively. But the voice has few colors and is technically limited. He can sing well, but he seldom sings smoothly. With too little musical line, his performance is more like a recitation than an occasion of song.

One appreciated the many textual points Scarlata made in the songs in German.


But the lack of a voluptuous voice and of a broad dynamic range were particularly missed in Grieg’s “Zur Rosenzeit” and “Ein Traum.”

Poulenc’s “Banalites” were cleverly delineated, as was the charming closing group of songs in English. The encore was Charles Ives’ haunting “Memories.”